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ACTIVITY REPORT - 2nd Tunnel Asset Owners Day

Just like last year, ABTUS-BVOTS seized #worldtunnelday or, in other words, the feast of Saint Barbara, patron saint of various dangerous professions (miners, infantrymen, firefighters, bricklayers, engineers?, etc.), as the ideal moment to call together the Belgian tunnel asset owners once again. TM Roco, the contractor consortium responsible for implementing subproject 3b of the Oostwerweel project, hosted the event. An ideal location right next to the Merksem viaduct, where the Channel Tunnels will poke their noses above ground in a few years' time. At the 2nd Tunnel Asset Owners Day, we always try to give them a forum where they briefly explain their programme for the coming years. This explanation is intended to give the market better insights into what these construction owners have on their shelves. We gathered a very nice bunch who face very challenging projects in the coming years.

Agentschap Wegen & Verkeer (AWV) explained the Vlaamse Tunnel Richtlijn (VTR). This document will be the one that will create a clear framework for all the functional requirements a tunnel has to meet. For the next 10-15 years, they are also planning total renovations with integral approach of about 10 tunnels, starting with the Beverentunnel.

Next on stage, Lantis by Peter Verbois, builder of the Oosterweel project, has six major tunnel projects in the pipeline in this project. The most advanced project, Scheldetunnel, had nice progress to show. For instance, the construction of the tunnel elements in Zeebrugge is about halfway through and the excavation and pouring of the floor slab of the ramps is already well underway. The challenge that Lantis sets itself will mainly lie in making these six tunnel projects future-proof. They want to make these milestone projects a paragon of reliability.

One of the new players as a builder of infrastructure projects is De Werkvennootschap by Joos Dewulf. De Werkvennootschap is a Flemish organisation that supports large and complex mobility projects. With projects in the coming years in Gent (R4WO, Gentspoort), Ronse (RondRonse), North-South Limburg, Brussel (Ringtrambus), their programme is well filled. They are also studying the feasibility of replacing the E17 viaduct in Gentbrugge with a tunnel complex. Fascinating study work for the coming years!

Very much appreciated cooperation from SPW, came through Amelie Callejon. We realise all too well that the crossing from Liège to Antwerp is no easy task, but therefore even more appreciated. An ambitious plan to renovate ALL Walloon tunnels in the next 20 years is on the cards. Renovation projects in Flémale, Hocheporte, Sainte-Marie/Louvrex, Charleroi and Mouscron will come on stream between now and 2026.

Permanent speaker at several previous ABTUS-BVOTS event is Erwin Joris of De Lijn - Antwerp Premetro. No fewer than 26 new escalators + 14 escalator renovations will be provided in various stations in Antwerp. Groenplaats station will also be renovated, including redevelopment of the square and neighbourhood. The start is planned for early 2025. The completion of 2.8 km of tunnel shaft and 4 stations will also be tackled. Overall, the challenge remains to maintain all tubes (in different phases) optimally in terms of water management, rail track ballast, etc.

Finally, Infrabel, manager of our Belgian railway network, just like all other Asset Owners, faces major challenges with regard to maintaining the existing patrimony. Our vital rail artery, the North-South connection, will be structurally tackled in the coming years. This complex structure, combined with the high traffic load promises to be a hussle job.

Soon to be a builder too, but for one tunnel, is PIVO. This training centre for emergency services is planning the construction of a practice tunnel. This exercise tunnel will offer emergency services, tunnel operators, etc. a perfect training location to perfect the safety level. Gust De Block, inspirer of this project, gave a strong appeal to all stakeholders & industry to help get the project on track.

This was followed by a panel discussion of the Asset Owners. General tenor today was that it is very important to inform the market in an open and correct way about the ongoing programmes. This is obviously not always easy legally speaking, but federations such as ABTUS-BVOTS can be an ideal platform to make such consulations happen correctly. We only welcome this proposition!

The plenary part was afterwards split into several sub-sessions. We thank the speakers of the sub-sessions for sending in their papers and, of course, fascinating presentations. The abstracts of their work can be consulted at the following link.

Like last year, a successful event with more than 70 participants. With this Asset Owners Day, we hope to have installed a lasting culture of project and knowledge sharing. Next year we hope to be there again, with the aim of getting all Tunnel Asset Owners of Belgium around the table.


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